The mobile revolution has been so ubiquitous that any reminders of a time without cell phones seem like ancient history. Just as commonplace are those pesky—and pricey—monthly fees that make mobile access possible.
The entire digital mobile advertising ecosystem is built on that access. But as Gen Z has come of age, it has reshaped the rules of engagement, both in terms of how brands advertise to Gen Zers and the services they are willing to pay for, from TV to cell service.
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) have been around since the ’90s (it’s probably not widely known that some of the best-known mobile services are in fact MVNOs). TextNow, with over 10 million users, is the only ad-supported MVNO in the U.S to offer free phone service. The company is leading the charge of a new mobile revolution by combining free phone service with strategic advertising opportunities for brands to connect with this valuable but often elusive demographic.
A diverse and economically potent community
As everyone knows well by now, Gen Z is a generation marked by digital nativity, financial savviness, diversity of backgrounds and a unique set of values.
This fact is bolstered by research from TextNow, which found that nearly all Gen Zers (98%) own smartphones and spend more than four hours per day on mobile apps, excluding gaming activities. They are not merely consumers but a diverse—and economically potent—community, making up 40% of all consumers globally. Understanding Gen Z’s spending habits is crucial for brands looking to connect.
This generation prefers to allocate funds to experiences versus material possessions. According to Spotify’s Culture Next Trends report, 62% of Gen Zers and millennials believe brands can create communities based on their interests. Moreover, 80% of Gen Z consumers express a preference for brands that demonstrate inclusivity and diversity, making platforms that embody these values particularly attractive.
However, engaging Gen Z comes with challenges. Spotify’s research revealed that nearly 58% of Gen Zers don’t want ads that interrupt their content. On the flip side, more than half (52%) indicate a willingness to pay attention to creative and entertaining ads, showcasing an opportunity for brands to connect with this audience through innovative, non-intrusive methods.
A mobile life
We all know Gen Z live on their phones (and to be fair, most of us do). We’ve also come to understand how much they value protecting their information.
Gen Zers are reluctant, for example, to share their phone numbers for low-value rewards or incentives, TextNow discovered in its research. That said, when it comes to bigger rewards, such as sweepstakes and promotional emails, they are willing to provide phone numbers, email addresses and birthdays.
Even where larger rewards are concerned, however, more than a third of the demo remains reluctant to reveal their phone numbers (36%); they are more apt to share their email addresses (61%), first and last names (54%) and ages (44%).
Free is the future
It’s clear that Gen Z and millennials are redefining the way some categories will operate in the future. They are aware of their power, and some have decided that they don’t want to pay for phone service ever again and that they are ready for brands to pay for it. And while this value exchange happens, they lean forward to listen and dance with the advertiser that’s giving them the ultimate form of freedom: communication at zero cost.
With its flexible and innovative business models, an MVNO like TextNow is challenging traditional mobile operators, offering consumers more choices and cost-effective solutions. In a world where brand loyalty is waning, providing a vital mobile service for free enables brands to build equity and connect with users in a controlled and brand-safe ecosystem.
TextNow collaborates strategically with major carriers such as the largest 5G network in the U.S., allowing the MVNO to challenge the dominance of traditional telecom providers. This strategic collaboration provides TextNow users with robust network coverage while positioning the platform as a cost-effective alternative in the mobile space.
Meanwhile, TextNow’s unique freemium ad-supported business model enables it to offer essential services for free while creating a space for brands including McDonald’s, Unilever, Paramount Pictures, Wells Fargo and CashApp to connect with users.
What’s more, its advertising strategy focuses on tailored solutions, seamlessly integrating brands into the user experience through banners, sponsored messages and video prompts. This approach proves more effective than traditional display ads, enhancing user engagement within the core functions of the app.
But having the right platform is just one aspect of it. To engage with this demographic, brands look for a holistic approach that will offer several ad solutions. That led TextNow to develop its offering beyond traditional display ads. Push notifications, sponsored multimedia texts and video displays offer a more comprehensive approach to engage users. Providing something extra valuable, such as free trials or exclusive offers, further enhances the brand-consumer relationship.
Riding the wave
TextNow’s brand values also align with Gen Zers’ via the company’s commitment to catering to underserved groups, including communities of diverse backgrounds. The combination of a freemium offering that has the highest perceived value made possible by brands (nothing more powerful than having free access to call your friends and loved ones or operate your business from your phone and access your passions from your device, for free) and the innovative, uncluttered and authentic approach to how brands are presented in the app, makes this offering hard to compare. There’s no one else in the market that can help your brand engage with these influential consumers at such a deep and intimate level.
As Gen Z and the youngest millennials continue to shape the way they engage with brands, a freemium MVNO like TextNow is mastering the art of riding that wave, providing an innovative, effective platform for brands to connect with the next generation of consumers. In a universe of choices—and often empty promises—to advertisers looking to connect with this audience, the smartest brands are hooking into this powerful platform. Isn’t it time you did?